Saturday, January 28, 2012

Peace of Mind: Internet Safety for Your Kids

Kids of all ages now have access to the considerable content found on the World Wide Web. Unfortunately, lots of this content is not appropriate for children. Some of this questionable content can be easily accessed by mistyping while performing a simple online search or while on any of the various social networks designed to make our world more interactive than ever before. Fortunately, there are ways to keep kids safe and enjoy some peace of mind as your kids surf the Net and interact with friends online.

Social Media

Technically, you have to be at least 13 years of age to sign up for Facebook. Realistically, the site has users younger than this. Talk to your kids about social media and why it’s best left to older people and how important it is to take precautions even if you’re an adult.

• Avoid posting your full name and address.
• Avoid posting information that may narrow down your location such as the name of your school.
• Setup accounts so only friends can access photos and other personal posts made to the site.
• If your child receives comments that make them feel uncomfortable, have them inform you right away.
• If your child does not want to add you to their account compromise with a stipulation that you get to view their pages periodically to make sure there isn't anything inappropriate posted.
• Set specific hours when your child can access their social network accounts.


Kids like to be entertained. If you have a Netflix account, it may seem harmless to allow your child to select some movies to stream online. The feature of many sites that automatically propagates suggestions once one or two words are typed can turn up some suggestions you do not want your child to see. Some sites do have special settings where content can be restricted. This can be a double-edged sword for parents who wish to view mature content later since it takes a while for normal settings to return on some sites. Another option is to set restrictions on what websites a child can access from a specific computer, laptop or smart phone.


Simple messages can easily be shared through email.  However, some of the information passed through email can be harmful on several levels. Inform your child that they should avoid opening email attachments from people they do not know. If they are unsure if they should view an attachment or not, tell them to get your permission first. Some email services allow parents to block email recipients who send attachments of any kind. Most email services offer some form of parental controls. Settings can be adjusted for the age of the child. Inform your child that if they receive an email that is threatening or inappropriate, they need to inform you right away.

Additional information you should tell your child:

• Never share Internet passwords.
• Never agree to meet someone you only know from the Internet.
• Block someone who makes you feel comfortable or has an inappropriate conversation with you.


There is a wide selection of software designed to keep kids safe while accessing the Web. Look for per-user configuration options on the software you choose, especially if users of different ages will be accessing the same computer. Content restrictions for a 6-year-old are very different from what is appropriate for a 16-year-old. Products like PC Pandora and Webroot Parental Controls link settings directly to each user's account and not the computer in general.

Safety Standards

There are three basic rules that apply when it comes to keeping kids safe online. These rules can be adjusted with age, but generally apply to anybody under the age of 18.

1. Limit Usage - Set a specific amount of time your child is permitted to be online each day. Set restrictions. For example, family time starts with dinner. After homework is completed, no more IMs or online time until the next day. Be firm and do not make exceptions.

2. Keep the Computer in Sight - Place the computer in an area where kids can be monitored without you hovering over them every second, such as the living room or family room.

3.  Use Security Features - Every computer has some form of security protection. Make sure Internet restrictions are set, and check browser history to see where you child has been online.

Toni Alvarez is a mother and a computer tech who writes for, a site where you can learn about fibre optic broadband, and also compare broadband rates and values for your business or personal use. 

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